We are all overwhelmed with the number of things we have to do in our business, and just as we are about to complete our lists we see more tasks making their way up.

We are constantly fire-fighting new challenges that crop up, and we never seem to really get things done.

Maybe you’re like me, and you absolutely want to grow your business but so many things get in the way all the time. And, let’s not forget about procrastination. It tends to show its ugly face at the worst times.

So, how can we really get things done?

Over the years, I have learned about various productivity systems, and I got to say, when combined, they are working really well for me. And one of the systems is the “one-touch rule”.

This rule does not come from the business world, rather it comes from the decluttering movement.

The “one-touch rule” basically means that you need to tackle any task the first time you touch it. By following this rule, you help yourself to complete your tasks without having a pile of semi-finished tasks lingering in your mind.

Mastering this process also allows you to start things only when you are ready.

It’s a simple trick to help you group your work into planned focus blocks: You won’t touch a task until you’re ready to focus on it. Of course, not everything can be done this way, but I treat it as a guideline, not a rule.

The general idea is that as soon as you start something, whether it’s making a decision or starting a new market strategy, you act immediately. The goal is to have a completed task at the end of your action. Sometimes, you’ll have to break up a task into smaller pieces to apply the rule. And the action of breaking up the task is in itself a task that you can complete in one go.

By following this system, you will not only gain time, but you will also reduce your mental fatigue. Research shows that as projects pile up, it creates a sense of “unfinished business” and affect the prosperity of your business.

According to productivity expert, Nicole Bandes, consistently starting tasks, then pushing them aside and promising to get to it later can really tank your ability to get things done.

Change begins with awareness.

Analyse your daily goals. How do you manage the tasks ahead of you? How many times do you plan to take a step in favour of your business growth, but do you end up not doing it?

Try the one-touch rule for a week. The next time you set an objective, think of the steps that will help you achieve the goal smoothly and act fast. Do it the moment you remember and don’t procrastinate.

You can use a sticky note to write down your daily goals. Then, follow the steps below to try the “one-touch rule”.

@kayp via Twenty20

How to implement the one-touch rule to your to-do list

  1. Prioritise your tasks. Without a good prioritisation system, you’ll end up working on low-value tasks.
  2. Estimate how long each one will take. You’ll need to know in order to choose the best task for the moment.
  3. Pick the most important task that you can do right now with your available time. If you’ve got 20 minutes before your next meeting, pick a 15-minute task.
  4. If there is a high priority task in your list that you can’t get done right now, schedule the appropriate time in your calendar for it.
  5. After dealing with that one, continue until the end of the list.

Once you have committed to solving the problem, you have to go all-in.

A Real-life Example

Let’s take a concrete example to wrap up this article.

And, you know what? Let’s take this writing this article itself as the task that I need to get done.

Although I have dozens of other tasks in my pipeline, when I sat down this morning, I had one hour available to me. And within that one hour, the most important task that I could complete is this article. The others were either less important or would take too long to complete right now.

So, as soon as I set the intention to start, I made a mental promise to ignore everything else until this article is completely written.

It’s been on my list for a week now, but I did not touch it. I started it only when I knew that I would be able to get it done. If that were not possible, then maybe I would have broken it into 3 separate pieces. Or I would have scheduled time for it in the coming days.

But now it’s done.

I’ll still have some light editing to do, but the original task of writing an article about the “one-touch” rule is done. Done! Done! Done!

And, I’m quite happy with the results.

Your turn

What productivity systems have you tried? Would you be open to trying the one-touch rule for at least one week? Let me know in the comments.


Umar is the co-founder of ArcheTrust, a marketing agency dedicated to helping small businesses make more money so that the owners can finally live the lives of their dream. He is also the co-founder of the Simple Growth Magazine where he regularly shares his knowledge and opinion about growth strategies. Having started as a freelancer over a decade ago, he's been through most of the challenges that small businesses face, and today he uses his experience to help others avoid the pain that he went through.

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